Printing RPG PDFs to Hardcopy Books

GURPSDay has again descended upon us!

I’ve written about printing out RPG PDFs a couple of times before, so instead of just making a third post for this latest project, I’m pulling them all together into a single uber-post.

A few caveats:

  • I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. I’m simply sharing what has worked for me using Lulu.com.
  • The most critical thing to remember is that you must set your Lulu project to Private Access! This prevents it from being listed for sale to others besides yourself or showing up in search results — only you will be able to order a book copy of the PDF.
  • These are all black and white printings. Color usually costs a lot more.
  • The costs given don’t include the costs for the PDF itself, just the printing/binding.
  • I’ve only printed PDF products from Steve Jackson Games (GURPS) and Evil Hat Productions (Fate), and both of those companies give explicit permission to print out a single copy for personal use of the products I printed.
    • Steve Jackson Games:Q: Can I have a copy shop print up a copy of a file I bought? A: Yes, you can have one copy printed for personal use, whether at home or through a copy shop. If the copy shop needs proof that you have permission, you can point them at this page, or write us at orders@warehouse23.com for official permission.”
    • Evil Hat Productions: On their Fate products’ copyright pages, after the usual “All rights reserved…” boilerplate about not making a copy, is “That said, if you’re doing it for personal use, knock yourself out. That’s not only allowed, we encourage you to do it.”

 If you’re looking to print something else, it will depend on the publisher.

So, these are the projects I’ve done so far.


GURPS Omnibus, v. 1.0

Project: GURPS “Characters” and “Campaigns” combined into a single softcover volume
Service: FedEx/Kinko’s Online
Price: $64.71 ($48.49 for printing/binding, $3.93 for tax, $12.29 for shipping)

This was my first-ever print job, in March of 2009. I would describe it as “Ugly, but functional” (and a bit too expensive). It was comb-bound and plain, but served me well for about four years until I lost it in a move.

The Original Omnibus
GURPS Omnibus v. 1.0, open
The Original Omnibus and Hardcovers
GURPS Omnibus v. 1.0 and actual Hardcovers

GURPS Omnibus, v. 2.0

Project: GURPS “Characters” and “Campaigns” combined into a single hardcover volume
Service: Lulu.com
Price: $45 ($35 for printing/binding, $10 for shipping)

Though losing my first Omnibus initially bummed me out, the silver lining was that for my second attempt I gave Lulu a try, and not only was the quality worlds ahead of version 1.0, it was like 20 bucks cheaper! This one I did in 2013… amazing the difference four years can make. I believe my Lulu options were set to “8.25” x 10.75″, casewrap-hardcover binding, white interior paper (50# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (100# weight), full-color exterior ink.”

The New Omnibus, Open
GURPS Omnibus v. 2.0, Open
The New Omnibus
GURPS Omnibus v. 2.0. Behold!

Barely worth mentioning, there is a very slight “sliver” of white at the top of some of the pages (that would normally have a grayscale border right to the page edge), but it’s barely noticeable.

The Dreaded Sliver
The Dreaded Sliver

This is the rulebook I currently tote around with me, and it has held up extremely well after three years.


Fate Omnibus

Project: Fate Core, Fate System Toolkit, and Fate Accelerated combined into a single volume
Service: Lulu.com
Price: $21.16 ($12.16 for printing/binding, $9 for shipping)

For my third printing project in 2014, I switched gears to Fate instead of GURPS. It was even cheaper because the page count is less than the above, and it is a softcover and digest-sized book. Still looks and feels great, and shows no signs of wear and tear.

Fate Omnibus and actual Hardcovers
Fate Omnibus and actual Hardcovers
Open about halfway
Open about halfway
The spine and back cover
The spine and back cover

How to Be a GURPS GM

Project: “How to Be a GURPS GM” as a hardcover (two different versions)
Service: Lulu.com
Price: $22.83 ($12.83 for printing/binding, $10 for shipping — this is for the basic, non-dust cover version)

Naturally, when Steve Jackson Games published my PDF for “How to Be a GURPS GM” in 2014, I wanted a hardcopy for myself! The one I put together is a basic version, shown on the left. A friend of mine bought the PDF and she wanted her own hardcopy — she did a much nicer job on hers (and opted for the dust cover jacket), and I’m totally jealous. It looks great.

Front Covers - Basic on left, Dust Covers on right
Front Covers – basic on left, dust cover on right
Back Covers - Basic on left, Dust Covers on right
Back Covers – basic on left, dust cover on right
Interior Dust Cover flaps
Interior dust cover flaps

I like how those pictures show two very different versions of the exact same content, which is one of the advantages of Lulu… you can design your printed book to look the way you want it to. I’ll be much happier when/if Steve Jackson Games offers their own POD service for PDFs, but until then, Lulu seems like a pretty great third-party solution.

I’d love to see any game PDFs you’ve had printed and bound, or hear about your experiences with Lulu and others. Any good ones out there?

Update: Be sure to check out the links in the comments below for even more great pics!

Update 2: Some fantastic pics here of a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy hardcover that “contains all 15 DF books, plus DF Monsters, DF Adventure 1, the two DF Pyramid magazines and a handful of DF Articles, coming in a bit over 700 pages” (forum post – thanks, Eric!).

 

If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?

 

23 Comments

  1. I’ve blogged about some of my experiences with Lulu and others. Here are some of the highlights…

    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2016/01/star-wars-rebels-spark-of-rebellion.html
    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2013/07/thrilling-tales-2nd-edition-in-print-on.html
    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2013/07/anachronistic-adventurers-collected.html
    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2013/03/hollow-earth-expedition-rebound.html
    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2012/12/fate-core-and-printme1.html
    http://waveyourgeekflag.blogspot.com/2011/07/spycraft-20-and-print-on-demand.html

  2. I’m experimenting with Lulu be making paperback version of “How To A GURPS GM”. I just wanted to use the cover. How did you do it?

  3. I just used Adobe Acrobat to save the first page of the PDF as a JPG named “cover.jpg” and uploaded that to Lulu. That only works if you actually have Acrobat though (the free Adobe Reader won’t do it), but I note that if you Google “pdf jpg converter” there are a bajillion returns.

    You might also be able to open the PDF on your computer and take a screenshot of it. (If you’re on Windows, these would work: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/how-to-take-a-screenshot-on-pc/

    Good luck. I hope it comes out well!

    • Yes! Printme1 is also pretty great, I often use them for things like custom “Player Books” for new games. I don’t mind comb binding for things like that, meant for utility, but I like Lulu better for things I want to look nice too. Right tool for the right job. 🙂

  4. I use Lulu as well and I’m very happy with the results.
    I have an admittedly much less extensive method. It gives me a second copy of the first page but I’m good with that. Just use the snipping tool in windows to create a picture of the front page and use that as the cover.

    I can normally get about 5 books (40ish pages apiece) for $20ish paperback 8 by 11 black and white with a thick paper cover.
    I’ve mostly printed the books I want at this point. However, its cheaper to do 4 or 5 books at the same time for some reason Though After the End has a print coming once I build up a few to print.

  5. I used Lulu… Not bad for a first effort. The cover isn’t lined up properly. Too big.
    I am trying to make a Spaceships compendium but Lulu rejects the first book. Any suggestions?

  6. An error message that says the “Your document could not be created: We do not accept PDF documents with pages of differing sizes.”

      • If Ty is printing a hardbound case wrapped copy, the cover cropping is probably because he didn’t leave enough space around the edges of the cover. Case wrapped projects need either 1/4 or 1/2 inch of space around the borders for crop and wrapping. The images in the most of the pdf’s are EXACTLY 8.5×11 and would need to be “extended” somehow. I was printing a black cover, so I just dropped the cover on a larger black background and created a new image with wider margins.

        Even if this is a softbound project, it’s probably best to use an image slightly larger, and with slightly larger outside borders than you actually need. You can zoom IN on an image to make it bigger in the cover designer, and you can move it around. But if you’re using a stock 8.5×11 image (or smaller) you can’t zoom the image OUT because there’s no image left to fill the border space on the cover. Rule of thumb, use images slighly larger (border wise) than you actually need and zoom them to get them centered. For the large case wrapped format I had good luck adding a 1/2″ border to my cover images.

        Full Disclosure: I haven’t yet received my copy to see if my assumptions are right, but I did have it reviewed by lulu staff who gave it the thumbs up.

  7. This comment originally came from the “Print On Demand Has A New Fan” post, but Mook asked me to cross post it here.

    (after having some trouble getting the conversion of Characters and Campaigns for an Omnibus book to work…)

    I think I finally got the conversion errors resolved after working with lulu support and more hours of trial and error than I care to admit. Some notes and tips:

    1. If you, like me, combined the files several years ago, don’t forget you did that. 😉 Specifically make note of what tools you used because if it wasn’t Acrobat, you may have issues.
    2. More importantly, lulu really only works with PDF version 1.4 and earlier. 1.3 is much more stable, but supposedly 1.4 will work. Version 1.5 and 1.6 aren’t likely to work on complex files like these, and definitely won’t work for the omnibus described in this post. They may work for simpler files.
    3. All pages need to be oriented the same direction. Somehow one of mine got rotated 90 degrees.
    4. All pages must be the same size. This one is a bit nitpicky and sometimes it’ll work without this change, but it’s best to have the same size pages (8.5 x 11 preferably). This can be a complex process involving cropping, printing to PDF using a scaling factor and an understanding of page sizes in pts and ratios. (btw, I think this may be what caused your white stripe Mook… lack of bleed space in the characters file). VERY nitpicky to get both files combined in to a single file with consistent page size.
    5. Even with all of the above, the conversion may fail.

    What FINALLY worked for me was to save the final combined file as a “press ready” pdf in Acrobat (not reader). Similar verbiage in other tools may be “print ready”. THIS was what finally let me get through the conversion. The various layers and extra metadata saved in the various PDF versions can be too much for the converter. Press ready flattens and optimizes things for the press.

    One other point to note, all of the editing, rotating, converting, printing, cropping etc. at one point corrupted the PDF in ways that weren’t visible to the naked eye, and yet would cause conversion to fail. I had to go back to the original 2 source files, recombine them, crop them, reprint with a scaling factor to get the resulting file back up to 8.5 x 11, and then immediately use Adobe Acrobat to produce a press ready file. Translation: If it fails, it may mean you have to start over.

    And now for the moment that everybody has been waiting for: Cost for a full color Omnibus

    $118.21 plus shipping ($9.99)

    You’re welcome. 😉

  8. Hey Mook, thanks again for all these great resources. I found your original Omnibus post and had no idea these other posts even existed. I obviously need to dig through your blog more!

    I also picked up a copy of How to Be a GURPS GM recently, and while I haven’t had time to read it just yet, I’m looking forward to it. Keep up the good GURPS-Work!

    • You too, sir! There’s all kinds of GURPS-y goodness in the nooks and crannies here. I hope you enjoy exploring.

      Look forward to hearing what you think of “How to Be a GURPS GM” when you get to it.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. PDF’s, Print on Demand and the allure of custom rulebooks – Temple of Mick
  2. Overview of 2016 – Game Geekery
  3. Scattershot – April 2017 – Game Geekery

Leave a Reply to Tom Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.


*